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Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 42

How To Become an Astronaut - Part 1

08/14/2007 1:51 PM

As children, we're taught to follow our dreams because we can be anything we want to be when we grow up. So we dress up as firefighters, actors or actresses, monsters, and astronauts. Somewhere along the way, we lose our childhood dreams and go on to lead happy lives in other professions. But have you ever stopped, looked back, and thought about your lost dreams? The recent launch of the space shuttle Endeavour provides us with an opportunity to consider what it takes to become an astronaut, and the training that those seven crew members and all NASA astronauts have been through.

The astronaut candidate program is always accepting applications, with selection occurring as needed. For accepted applicants, there is a one-year training program at Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas. Upon completion of this program, candidates become regular members of the astronaut core and are usually eligible for a mission after one year of astronaut core training.

To apply for NASA's astronaut candidate program, you must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university in engineering, a biological science, a physical science, or mathematics. All applicants must meet specific health guidelines, including vision no worse than 20/50 uncorrected, but always correctible to 20/20. In addition, astronaut candidates much have a blood pressure no higher then 140/90 while sitting, and must be between 64" and 76" tall. Individual positions carry additional requirements. For example, a pilot candidate must have logged at least 1000 hours of flying jet aircraft.

Once a candidate joins the JSC program, the one-year training period is very rigorous. Astronaut candidate training begins with numerous short courses in aircraft safety, including ejection, parachute skills, and survival. Pilot and mission-specialist candidates are trained to fly T-38 high-performance jet aircraft. The candidates also undergo a full range of academic classes which cover math, Earth resources, meteorology, guidance and navigation, astronomy, physics, and computer science. They attend lectures and briefings, and read textbooks and flight operations manuals to acquire a basic knowledge about the shuttle system, including payloads.

Editor's Note: Part 2 of this series is now on CR4.

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